<p> You may know better than to flash jewelry, take unmarked cabs or accept packages from strangers while traveling. But do you know how to protect your laptop, smartphone or tablet &mdash; not to mention your credit cards?</p> <p> Here are 13 things you should do to guard your devices, your bank balance and <a href="">your identity</a> while away from home.</p>

Back up everything before you take off

<p>Leave the backup disk somewhere safe, preferably hidden or locked away in your house, said Andrew Brandt, director at Solera Networks Threat Research Labs in South Jordan, Utah.</p> <p> &quot;That means the entire laptop hard drive, everything on the phone (the whole SD card), the works,&quot; Brandt said. &quot;I like to use a <a href="" target="_blank">whole-drive imaging program</a> like Norton Ghost or Acronis. But Windows users can get away with something like Microsoft&#39;s free SyncToy if you don&#39;t mind only backing up the data, and you have the restore disc that will reinstall the OS [operating system].&quot;</p> <p> Brandt said Mac users have Time Machine as a backup system, but added that they can also search on the Internet for other free backup tools.</p>

Back up the photos you take &mdash; whether they&#39;re taken with a camera or with a phone &mdash; every day

<p>If you lose or break your device, you&#39;ll also lose valuable and irreplaceable pictures.</p> <p> &quot;You can always send [broken devices] to a <a href="" target="_blank">data-recovery service</a>, but it costs an arm and a leg,&quot; Brandt says. &quot;I carry a tiny little hard drive with me that I can slip into a hidden spot in the hotel room, and use it for nightly incremental backups of these vacation snaps and vids.&quot;</p> <p> [<a href="">Six Safety Tips for Holiday Travelers</a>]</p>

Don&#39;t let your devices out of your sight

<p>Unless there&#39;s a solid, trustworthy, well-secured safe in the hotel room, it&#39;s best to keep your gadgets, including your laptop, with you at all times.</p> <p> That means no locking it in the trunk of the car, and definitely no leaving it out in the open in the hotel room, even if it&#39;s locked to the desk, Brandt said.</p> <p> &quot;I&#39;m not a fan of safes behind the counter in <a href="">the hotel lobby</a>, either,&quot; he said. &quot;Of course, there&#39;s always the possibility I could be robbed, but it&#39;s far more likely that someone will tamper with or steal the device if it&rsquo;s left unattended.&quot;</p> <p> Brandt says he has the free version of Prey, an open-source tracking application, installed on all his mobile devices, but he said there&#39;s a good chance it won&#39;t do much good other than to let him remotely wipe a device&#39;s storage drive.</p> <p> &quot;Just because you know where a stolen device is, it doesn&#39;t mean you&#39;ll ever see it again, or that the police will act on your information and return your stuff to you,&quot; he said.</p>

Encrypt your files on your laptop

<p>If your laptop computer is lost or stolen, your personal, financial and, possibly, company data won&#39;t be at risk because it&#39;ll take a password to read them.</p> <p> &quot;I have the entire system drive on my laptop <a href="" target="_blank">encrypted</a> with the no-cost TrueCrypt, which is just a sensible precaution to take even when you&#39;re not traveling,&quot; Brandt said. (TrueCrypt is a free, open-source program that encrypts files.)</p>

Pack a travel data toolkit

<p>If you&#39;re technologically inclined and travel a lot, you can save yourself time and expense by being prepared to repair minor computer malfunctions.</p> <p> Brandt said his tech toolkit includes a CD folder containing <a href="" target="_blank">bootable restore-and-repair discs</a> and a TrueCrypt rescue disc for his laptop; extra USB cables; small screwdrivers to open a laptop case; a microfiber cloth &mdash; for dusty keyboards and screens &mdash; wrapped around his portable hard drive for cushioning; a spare MicroSD card for his phone or camera; and a &quot;utility&quot; thumb drive, which includes security, recovery and repair software packages.</p> <p> Brandt&#39;s carry-on bag always contains his laptop, its power cord, a three-way power-outlet splitter (for crowded airports that offer just one outlet every 100 yards), a laptop locking cable, a USB cable and power cord for his phone, international power adapters (if necessary), a portable hard drive and a pack of Red Vines licorice.</p> <p> &quot;You know, for emergencies,&quot; he said.</p>

Download and install all available software updates before you leave home

<p> &quot;While I was on the road on my last international trip, the Internet Crime Complaints Center published a somewhat vague warning about using <a href="">hotel Internet connections abroad</a>,&quot; Brandt said. &quot;The gist of the story is that some international travelers were being presented with bogus &#39;software update&#39; popups while using the hotel&#39;s wireless broadband, and finding themselves infected with malware as a result.&quot;</p> <p> Brandt said there have been reports for several years about business travelers returning from abroad and finding that <a href="">malware or spyware had been installed surreptitiously on their laptops</a> when they were left unattended.</p> <p> &quot;Configuring a boot password in BIOS, and disabling the laptop from being able to boot from a removable media device (such as an optical disc or USB drive), may prevent some of those tricks from succeeding,&quot; he said. &quot;And, if you have one available, I&#39;d highly recommend that you <a href="">always use a VPN (virtual private network)</a> to encrypt your communications &mdash; even personal ones &mdash; through the home office.</p> <p> &quot;But in the end, the only way you can be sure that nothing undesirable remains on your laptop after your return is to re-image it using the backup you made before you left home, which is why I recommend going to that level of extremes.&quot;</p>

Avoid using existing email accounts when you&#39;re on the road

<p>But that doesn&#39;t mean you have to give everyone a <a href="">new email address</a> to use.</p> <p> &quot;I create a new Gmail account just for international trips, and configure my other email accounts to forward their messages to the new one, just for the duration of the trip, so I never have to log into the &#39;real&#39; email account while using a network I have no control over,&quot; Brandt said. &quot;When I get home, I&#39;ve still got copies of all my messages in the original accounts, and I can delete the &#39;vacation Gmail&#39; box permanently with no loss of data.&quot;</p> <p> [<a href="">Why You Need to Use Encrypted Email</a>]</p>

Try not to use a cybercaf&eacute; computer

<p> &quot;<a href="">Cybercaf&eacute;s</a> offer a measure of convenience, but you have to treat any cybercaf&eacute; computer you use as if it is completely compromised with malware,&quot; he said. &quot;Never log into any kind of financial website from a cybercaf&eacute;, and assume that after logging into a social media or email account from a public computer, you&#39;ll need to change the password before you log out.&quot;</p> <p> [<a href="">How to Get Through Airport Security Faster</a>]</p> <p>

Be wary of shared hotel computers

<p> &quot;I travel a lot, and when the hotel has one or more shared computers in the lobby or &#39;business center,&#39; I can&#39;t keep my curiosity in check, and always take a look at it,&quot; Brandt said.</p> <p> &quot;In my admittedly limited experience, anywhere from a quarter to half of the computers set up for public use in hotel lobbies in the U.S. that I&#39;ve looked at have been previously <a href="">infected with one or more types of malware</a>. Some of these have been infected for months before I stumble across them.&quot;</p> <p> So Brandt uses his thumb drive containing analysis and malware removal tools and tries to clean the hotel computer before he leaves &mdash; but more often than not, the hotel&#39;s software restrictions prevent him from doing so.</p> <p> &quot;In those cases, I just pull the plug on the box and tell the hotel manager, so at least nobody else will get their IM, social network or email passwords stolen,&quot; he said.</p>

Change passwords when you get home

<p> &quot;When you get home from a trip, always, always, always <a href="">change the passwords</a> of any accounts you may have accessed while on the road,&quot; Brandt said.</p> <p>&quot;That includes email, IM and social networks. Just assume that someone has been stealing your passwords the entire time, and change them the minute you get home.&quot;</p>

Try not to use public Wi-Fi

<p>If you do have to, then ensure that your secure connections are available.</p> <p> &quot;Things like Facebook and Twitter will automatically <a href="">default to a secure connection</a> now, but there are plenty of sites that don&#39;t,&quot; said Tim Armstrong, malware researcher at the Boston office of Russian security firm Kaspersky Labs. &quot;So especially if you&#39;re going to buy something with a credit card, you want to make sure the connection is SSL [secure socket link] so that your details aren&#39;t getting sniffed.&quot;</p> <p> To make certain you&#39;ve a secure connection, Armstrong said you should look for a lock icon in the browser&#39;s URL (address) bar or in the right corner of the Web page.</p> <p> [<a href="">How to Keep Your Wi-Fi Safe While Traveling</a>]</p>

Don&#39;t post vacation photos or videos on social media sites while traveling

<p>Armstrong says <a href="">burglars often troll social networks</a> looking for clues that homes are unoccupied. Wait until you get home to share your vacation photos and videos with family and friends.</p>

If you need to leave a device unattended, lock it with a password

<p>When you walk away from your mobile phone, tablet or laptop, the information you&#39;ve stored on it becomes vulnerable. Be sure your device is <a href="">password-protected</a> and lock your device to ensure your data is protected, Armstrong said.</p> <p> [<a href="">5 Ways to Keep Your Gadgets Safe During Summer Travel</a>]</p>

13 Tips to Keep Your Devices Safe While Traveling